Blood pressure and intracranial pressure-volume dynamics in severe head injury: Relationship with cerebral blood flow

G. J. Bouma, Jan Paul Muizelaar, K. Bandoh, A. Marmarou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


Increased brain tissue stiffness following severe traumatic brain injury is an important factor in the development of raised intracranial pressure (ICP). However, the mechanisms involved in brain tissue stiffness are not well understood, particularly the effect of changes in systemic blood pressure. Thus, controversy exists as to the optimum management of blood pressure in severe head injury, and diverging treatment strategies have been proposed. In the present study, the effect of induced alterations in blood pressure on ICP and brain stiffness as indicated by the pressure-volume index (PVI) was studied during 58 tests of autoregulation of cerebral blood flow in 47 comatose head-injured patients. In patients with intact autoregulation mechanisms, lowering the blood pressure caused a steep increase in ICP (from 20 ± 3 to 30 ± 2 mm Hg, mean ± standard error of the mean), while raising blood pressure did not change the ICP. When autoregulation was defective, ICP varied directly with blood pressure. Accordingly, with intact autoregulation, a weak positive correlation between PVI and cerebral perfusion pressure was found; however, with defective autoregulation, the PVI was inversely related to cerebral perfusion pressure. The various blood pressure manipulations did not significantly alter the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen, irrespective of the status of autoregulation. It is concluded that the changes in ICP can be explained by changes in cerebral blood volume due to cerebral vasoconstriction or dilatation, while the changes in PVI can be largely attributed to alterations in transmural pressure, which may or may not be attenuated by cerebral arteriolar vasoconstriction, depending on the autoregulatory status. The data indicate that a decline in blood pressure should be avoided in head-injured patients, even when baseline blood pressure is high. On the other hand, induced hypertension did not consistently reduce ICP in patients with intact autoregulation and should only be attempted after thorough assessment of the cerebrovascular status and under careful monitoring of its effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • autoregulation
  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebral metabolism
  • head injury
  • intracranial pressure
  • pressure-volume index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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